Are these movie villains actually bad, or are they just powerful women?

Image via Disney Channel
Words by Anthony Graetz

It’s time to break free.

Growing up as Sharpay in a world of Gabriellas is hard work.

It’s blessed me with the following very unpopular opinion: Sharpay was robbed in the High School Musical franchise. She worked way too hard in the drama department to be a star, only to be shoved aside by a new student with mediocre talent. She has every right to be offended. Her ‘bratty’ actions are totally justified. 

From a young age, girls are taught to be strong, confident and independent; to take what is rightfully theirs in a “man’s world”. However, do it with too much personality or attitude and you’re labelled a brat? So unfair.

Identifying with Sharpay and recognising her character assassination got me thinking, which other female ‘villains’ have been represented in a bad light, only to be misunderstood?

Why are talented women in pop-culture movies demonised for having a little personality? Let’s face it, they always have the best quotes – you’re not running around citing Gabriella, are you?

There’s always two sides to a story. We’ve come up with a list of female movie characters who aren’t villains at all, just go-getting gals who stick to their word.

1. Sharpay Evans, High School Musical. Obviously.

People who loved Gabriella from ‘High School Musical’ don’t have a personality now. 

Let’s face, the new girl on the block was boring – Sharpay was the real star. Our queen had fabulous hair, fabulous fashion and fabulous talent. She even had a song dedicated to how fabulous she was. Legendary. 

For years, Sharpay’s been slaving away in the drama department, rightfully earning the spotlight because hello, she’s talented.

Then all of a sudden, this new girl from Albuquerque comes along and steals the role Sharpay’s been preparing for for years. Excuse me? Gabriella’s audition was nothing compared to ‘Bop to the Top’. 

Not only does Gabriella steal Sharpay’s spotlight, but also the guy she’s been crushing on since forever, Troy Bolton. 

You’d be upset, too.

2. Ursula, The Little Mermaid

Okay, so this sixteen-year-old mermaid comes to Ursula for help, desperately wanting to change into a human, all to pursue a crush in the dry world ashore. Tragic. 

Ursula takes time out of her busy schedule to help a hopelessly romantic mer-child. Upon hearing that Ariel wants to give up her identity for a man, Ursula is a little hesitant.  She warns the young mermaid that men are only after one thing, and we all know that to be true. 

She literally says, “you can’t get something for nothing, you know.” 

Offering a binding contract to the child, Ursula clearly states two requirements: one, she trades her voice in exchange for some legs, and two, a kiss which must transpire between Ariel and Prince Eric within three days. Plenty of time. If the mermaid fails to do so, she belongs to Ursula. 

Ariel signs the contract without hesitation and in three days, doesn’t fulfil the legal requirements stated. Girl, you should have read the document properly. 

A contract is a contract. 

3. Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada

It’s no doubt Miranda is a strong and talented woman. As the editor-in-chief of New York’s most successful fashion magazine, she’s powerful and unstoppable. You go, Miranda.

Andy, an aspiring journalist, interviews to be her assistant, a job hundreds of women would kill for. She enters the interview with un-brushed hair, a mismatched outfit and unruly shoes. Don’t they say dress for the job you want to have? Well, Andy clearly missed the memo, and the one about first impressions too.

Despite all this, Miranda still hires her. 

During a meeting regarding an upcoming photoshoot, Andy totally crosses the line and refers to Miranda’s hard work as, “stuff”. Are you serious? You come into her world, totally not dressed for the part and then insult her work. Of course she’s going to dress you down in front of everyone. You’re arrogant Andy, and you kinda don’t know anything.

Miranda’s right. Fashion is not frivolous, it’s political and universal. Just ask us.

In the words of our queen, Meryl Streep, “that’s all.” 

4. Meredith Blake, The Parent Trap

We’re here to give this sassy blonde beauty with impeccable style and grace the recognition she deserves. 

Meredith is a boss; rich, successful and talented, the girl has done it all without the help of a man. Then she falls in love with Nick Parker, a total hottie, and scores herself an engagement ring. No harm in that.

Yeah, the man happens to be a successful Californian winemaker and is sitting on a load of money, but who wouldn’t want an attractive guy who’s got some cash to splash?

Sounds perfect except for his bratty daughter, Hallie. The young girl is entitled, scheming and, let’s face it, not even who she says she is. But that’s okay, Meredith can deal with one daughter. 

Except that it turns out Hallie is actually Annie, her identical twin sister. Thanks, Nick, you could have let the person you’re about to marry know you’ve got another child living in England. Red flag.

But Meredith is a trooper and carries on. She knows what she wants and she won’t let an undisclosed lovechild from a hushed-up past marriage get in the way of that.

A family camping trip littered with practical jokes from two meddlesome, pranking children was always designed to make her look bad. Hello, they pushed her inflatable mattress into the middle of the lake while she was sleeping on it. 

Tbh, we’d wanna ship those little brats off to Timbuktu, too. 

To make matters worse, Nick breaks up with her after an ultimatum and runs off with his ex-wife. Typical men.

And there you have it, the female pop-culture villains restored to icon status, completely vindicated. They’ve got flaws – I don’t completely agree with Ursula trying to enslave Ariel, obviously. I’m just saying no one’s perfect, and we all contain multitudes.

These strong and empowering women are villainised and we’re not here for it. I wonder if they were male, how they would be perceived?

As Miranda Priestley told all boss-women around the world, “Don’t be absurd. Everyone wants to be us.

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